Trimming Tummy Fat

By: CHRISTINA COLAVECCHIA

January is perhaps one of the most difficult months to stay motivated and to stick to normal exercise routines.  On top of that, those post-holiday pounds and extra tummy weight isn’t going anywhere fast.  For a toned, tight tummy, follow these 5 tips:

1. Eat Properly

We all know how important healthy eating is for our bodies.  A recent study conducted by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that a calorie-controlled diet rich in fruits, veggies and whole grains, and low in fat and refined sugars, will help the body shed not only subcutaneous fat (the surface fat that produces love handles), but also the deeper visceral fat, which builds up around abdominal organs and can raise the risk of things like high cholesterol and heart disease.  Sammie Kennedy, CEO and Creator of Booty Camp Fitness in Toronto, Ontario, says that refined sugars should generally be avoided for a healthy lifestyle, but also to reduce abdominal fat as insulin spikes will result in excess abdominal fat through the promotion of immediate fat storage.  Kennedy also explains that diet products like aspartame or other chemical sugar substitutes can cause a similar spike in insulin, triggering the brain to ‘believe’ you have eaten and that your blood sugar has risen, promoting fat storage.  Kennedy suggests snacking on almonds (1/4 cup daily), which are high in protein, fiber and magnesium; apples, which can satisfy a sweet tooth, yet still provide fiber and essential nutrients; and leafy greens like spinach or broccoli, which are low in calories and high in fiber.

2. Stress Less

Kennedy explains that stress causes your body to produce excess amounts of cortisol, which causes the body to flush sugar into your bloodstream and produce high amounts of energy.  When this response is not followed by a burst of physical activity, Kennedy continues, your system doesn’t have the chance to burn off that sugar.  Instead, it gets storied in your belly as fat.  Stressful situations can also drive the body to crave fatty, sugary foods that go straight to the waistline.
Exercises like yoga help to relax the mind, while toning the body too.  Kennedy recommends finding a physical activity you love and want to keep doing to help control stress and cortisol levels.

3. Exercise

It is most commonly believed that the best exercises for the tummy area are ones that focus on the abdominal muscles alone.  However, abdominal exercises are used to build and strengthen the muscles, not to lose tummy weight.  Kennedy recommends combining abdominal exercises with cardiovascular conditioning like running, plyometrics and high intensity workouts to help burn calories and fat and let those abs shine through.

Sophia Plank, a kinesiology student at the University of Guelph-Humber and an avid exerciser, uses different variations of ‘the plank’ to help tone the tummy. “Planks encourage you to keep your core contracted through the entire exercise in order to support the body position,” says Plank. Plank also suggests keeping the abdominal muscles contracted throughout every exercise (not just ab-focused ones) to strengthen the core muscles.

Kennedy recommends some form of physical exercise of moderate or high intensity 3-6 times a week for results.  Plank says that you can work on your abdominal muscles every day.  Even if a 1- minute workout is all you can fit into your schedule on a certain day, some time donated to working that muscle is better than no time at all.

4. Quit Smoking / Limit Alcohol Consumption

Many heavy smokers believe that cigarettes help keep them thin.  However, lighting up actually increases the size of the tummy area.  People who smoke are more likely to accumulate fat in the stomach rather than in other parts of the body.  Much like stress, both smoking and drinking tend to raise cortisol levels and lower the metabolism, sending fat directly to the belly.  A Harvard Medical study recently reported that smokers are more likely to have larger tummy areas than non-smokers because smoking triggers a reaction inside the body that diverts fat from places like the thighs and hips and causes an unhealthy buildup inside the abdomen.

Alcoholic drinks are considered ‘empty calories’ and block the body’s ability to burn fat properly; any excess fat not burned is stored, then, in the abdomen.  Alcohol can also cause weight gain because it can increase appetite.  Even small quantities of alcohol in the system stimulate the production of gastric or stomach juices, increasing the appetite.  The food that you eat while drinking alcohol is rendered ‘nutritionally useless’ because the alcohol interferes with the body’s absorption, storage and use of nutrients.

5. Drink Water

Drinking water is the best thing you can do for you abdomen and for your body in general.  “Failing to get enough water can cause bloating, which can prevent you from achieving a flat stomach,” says Kennedy.  A lack of water can also cause gas and slow digestion, also leading to a bloated abdomen.  Water aids in the digestion process, assisting the digestion of any greasy, salty foods that are working through the body.

Drinking lots of water fills the stomach, making you feel less hungry.  It is recommended, for those trying to lose weight, to drink a full glass of water before a meal.  A lack of water in the body can lead to dehydration, which occurs when you don’t have enough water in your body to carry out normal bodily functions.  Dehydration can drain energy and make you tired, which means you’ll have less strength to work on those abs.

Try these at-home abdominal exercises provided by Sammie Kennedy and Booty Camp Fitness:

Scissor Kicks (for the lower abdominals)

Begin by lying flat on your back on a mat with your arms by your sides and palms facing down.  Extend your legs fully with a slight bend at the knees.  Lift your heels about six inches off the floor.  Make small, rapid up and down scissor-like motions with your legs.  The key is to focus on having your midsection do the work and to keep your abs constantly contracted throughout the exercise.  Perform 20-30 reps completing three sets.

Rope Climb (for the upper abdominals)

Lie flat on your back on the floor with your hands extending up in the air as if pulling a rope.  Crunch your abs and ‘climb’ the imaginary rope.  This will cause your shoulders to be off the ground.  Perform 20-30 reps completing three sets.

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One Comment on “Trimming Tummy Fat”

  1. Megan
    January 29, 2012 at 9:01 pm #

    Can’t wait to try these exercises. Thanks for all the advice….time to get ready for beach season soon 🙂

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